We are living through a truly interesting era in climbing evolution. The rate of progression within the world of free climbing has never been this exciting. The bar for the hardest climbing routes is constantly being edged forward, far past a standard many once thought was possible.
Imagine journeying back to 2001, the year Sharma below the collective minds of the climbing community by serving up the first 9a+/5.15a ascent of Realization/Biographie at 20 years old. This was a milestone that sent shockwaves throughout the sport-climbing world and hailed the beginning of a new era of sport climbing. Of course, this is just the tip of the very large iceberg that is the Sharma legacy, with the Calaforina-native going on to make an ascent of Jumbo Love, the first consensus 9b/5.15b in 2008, amongst many other awesome achievements.
Fast-forward to today and you’d be amazed to find the once exclusive 9b climbers club now bustling with members. As we stand in June 2023, 54 climbers have muscled their way up a grade 9b or harder. Among these elite spider-men and women, approximately 38 routes 9b or harder were ticked in the 2022/2023 season alone, with Seb Bouin adding yet another gnarly ascent to his tick list by putting up an FA of 9c.
With a rollercoaster of new, heart-racing developments hurtling in at breakneck speed, we have the pleasure of presenting the “Hard 100: Sport Climbing Edition”. This riveting collection showcases the most grueling sport ascents to date, coupled with a buffet of juicy tidbits to satiate your climbing curiosity.
A Timeline Of Sport Climbing
Before we embark into the craggy terrain of the world’s hardest climbing routes, let’s tip our helmets to the trailblazing feats that have set the stage for the modern standard of hard sport climbing. Because without these gravity-defying crushers of the past, the exhilarating, skyscraping standards of today’s climbing feats would still only remain the stuff of dreams.
Here are some golden milestones in sport climbing history that deserve a standing ovation:
- 1961:Thimble, John Gill – Gill sends the first 7a+/5.12a in history. What makes the ascent even more impressive was that it was a solo ascent.
- 1983: The Face, Jerry Moffat – First consensus 8a+/5.13c.
- 1990: Hubble, Ben Moon – Recognized as the first consensus 8c+/5.14c in history, although some (like Adam Ondra) suggest it might be more like 9a.
- 1991: Action Directe, Wolfgang Gullich – Gullich puts up the now iconic line in Frankenjura, Germany, which is considered the first 9a route.
- 2001: Realization/Biographie, Chris Sharma – Sharma’s first ascent in Céüse, France ushers in a new era of climbing by establishing the first consensus 9a+/5.15a in history.
- 2008: Jumbo Love, Chris Sharma – The first route to receive a consensus grade of 9b/5.15b and undoubtedly still one of the hardest climbs in North America.
- 2012: Change, Adam Ondra – The first proposed 9b+, ushering in the Age of Ondra.
- 2017: Silence, Adam Ondra – The first ever 9c climb and the current limit of what’s possible to climb on a rope.
The Hard 100: The Hardest Sport Climbs In The World
Without further ado, take a look at the table below for the complete list of the world’s hardest climbing routes in 2023.
After spending several days scouring the internet and scrolling through social media, I have pulled together the list you can see below, which is the most complete list of hard climbing routes and ascents on the internet. Logging hundreds of ascents isn’t as easy as it sounds, and there are undoubtedly a couple of errors or omissions here. If you spot anything that isn’t quite right, please drop a comment at the bottom of the page or send us an email!
|Route||Grade||Date of FA||Country||Climber|
|DNA||5.15d (9c)||April 2022||France||Sébastien Bouin|
|Silence||5.15d (9c)||Aug 2017||Norway||Adam Ondra|
|Bibliographie||5.15c (9b+)||August 2020||France||Alex Megos
|Change||5.15c (9b+)||October 2012||Norway||Adam Ondra
|Excalibur||5.15c (9b+)||Februray 2023||Italy||Stefano Ghisolfi|
|La Dura Dura||5.15c (9b+)||February 2013||Spain||Adam Ondra
|Mejorando La Samfaina||5.15c (9b+)||Februray 2023||Spain||Jorge Díaz-Rullo|
|Perfecto Mundo||5.15c (9b+)||May 2018||Spain||Alex Megos
|Sleeping Lion||5.15c (9b+)||March 2023||Spain||Chris Sharma|
|Suprême Jumbo Love||5.15c (9b+)||November 2022||USA||Sébastien Bouin|
|Vasil Vasil||5.15c (9b+)||December 2013||Czech Republic||Adam Ondra|
|Zvěřinec||5.15c (9b+)||November 2022||Czech Republic||Adam Ondra|
|Beyond Integral||5.15b/5.15c (9b/9b+)||October 2020||France||Sébastien Bouin|
|King Capella||5.15b/5.15c (9b/9b+)||March 2021||Spain||William Bosi
|La Rage d’Adam||5.15b/5.15c (9b/9b+)||September 2019||France||Sébastien Bouin|
|Move||5.15b/5.15c (9b/9b+)||August 2022||Norway||Adam Ondra
|Wonderland||5.15b/5.15c (9b/9b+)||March 2022||Italy||Adam Ondra|
|Ali Hulk||5.15b (9b)||November 2007||Spain||Dani Andrada
|Ali Hulk Sit Start Extension Total||5.15b (9b)||July 2019||Spain||Jonatan Flor
Jorge Diaz Rullo
|Ariégeois Cœur Loyal||5.15b (9b)||April 2023||France||Sébastien Bouin|
|Bomba||5.15b (9b)||March 2022||Italy||Adam Ondra|
|Brooklyn||5.15b (9b)||March 2023||France||Loïc Zehani|
|C.R.S.||5.15b (9b)||November 2015||France||Adam Ondra|
|Cafe Solo||5.15b (9b)||November 2021||Spain||Jorge Diaz Rullo|
|Chaxi Raxi||5.15b (9b)||April 2011||Spain||Adam Ondra|
|Chikane||5.15b (9b)||April 2022||France||Loïc Zehani|
|Cryptography||5.15b (9b)||May 2020||Switzerland||Alessandro Zeni|
|Disbelief||5.15b (9b)||July 2018||Canada||Adam Ondra|
|Eagle 4||5.15b (9b)||February 2018||France||Adam Ondra
Pierre Le Cerf
|El Bon Combat||5.15b (9b)||March 2015||Spain||Chris Sharma
Jorge Diaz Rullo
|El Picacho||5.15b (9b)||May 2021||Spain||Jonatan Flor|
|Erebor||5.15b (9b)||January 2021||Italy||Stefano Ghisolfi
|Event Horizon||5.15b (9b)||May 2022||USA||Jonathan Siegrest|
|Fantasia||5.15b (9b)||April 2023||France||Loïc Zehani|
|Fight Club||5.15b (9b)||August 2016||Canada||Alex Megos|
|Fight or Flight||5.15b (9b)||May 2011||Spain||Chris Sharma
|First Round First Minute||5.15b (9b)||April 2011||Spain||Chris Sharma
Jorge Diaz Rullo
|Golpe de Estado||5.15b (9b)||December 2008||Spain||Chris Sharma
|Harlem||5.15b (9b)||September 2022||France||Loïc Zehani|
|Iron Curtain||5.15b (9b)||August 2013||Norway||Adam Ondra
|Jumbo Love||5.15b (9b)||September 2008||USA||Chris Sharma
|L’Arenauta||5.15b (9b)||February 2022||Italy||Stefano Ghisolfi|
|La Barriere||5.15b (9b)||August 2018||Switzerland||Pirmin Bertle|
|La Planta de Shiva||5.15b (9b)||April 2011||Spain||Adam Ondra
Jorge Diaz Rullo
|La Vie||5.15b (9b)||August 2022||Spain||Jonatan Flor|
|Madame Ching||5.15b (9b)||December 2020||Austria||Angela Eiter|
|Mamichula||5.15b (9b)||Februray 2017||Spain||Adam Ondra
|Mossoul||5.15b (9b)||April 2023||France||Loïc Zehani|
|Move Hard||5.15b (9b)||July 2017||Norway||Adam Ondra
|Neanderthal||5.15b (9b)||December 2009||Spain||Chris Sharma
|Nordic Marathon||5.15b (9b)||July 2022||Norway||Sébastien Bouin|
|Obsession||5.15b (9b)||October 2019||France||Loïc Zehani|
|One Slap||5.15b (9b)||November 2017||Italy||Adam Ondra
|Queen Line||5.15b (9b)||April 2017||Italy||Adam Ondra
|Rainman||5.15b (9b)||June 2017||United Kingdom||Steve McClure
|Ratstaman Vibrations||5.15b (9b)||July 2022||France||Alex Megos|
|Robin Ud||5.15b (9b)||October 2016||Slovakia||Adam Ondra|
|Soul Mate||5.15b (9b)||March 2018||Japan||Sachi Amma|
|Soul Rock Dance||5.15b (9b)||September 2020||South Korea||Hyunbin Min|
|Stoking the Fire||5.15b (9b)||February 2013||Spain||Chris Sharma
|Taurus||5.15b (9b)||December 2021||Czech Republic||Adam Ondra|
|The Dream||5.15b (9b)||December 2019||Albania||Sébastien Bouin|
|The Full Journey||5.15b (9b)||October 2022||Spain||Alex Megos
|The Lonely Mountain||5.15b (9b)||December 2021||Italy||Stefano Ghisolfi
|Apocalipsis de la Gioconda||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||August 2019||Spain||Jonatan Flor
José Luis Palao
Jorge Diaz Rullo
|Artaburu||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||December 2018||Spain||Iker Pou|
|Bombardino||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||Februrary 2022||Italy||Adam Ondra|
|Chilam Balam||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||July 2003||Spain||Bernabé Fernández
|Demon||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||November 2020||France||Loïc Zehani|
|Es Pontas||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||September 2007||Spain||Chris Sharma
|Flex Luthor||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||January 2003||USA||Tommy Caldwell
|Furia de Jabali||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||February 2021||Spain||William Bosi
|Gioconda Smile Total||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||November 2020||Ukraine||Sergey Shaferov|
|Guggen-Hell||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||February 2021||Spain||Iker Pou|
|High Line||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||September 2018||Bosnia and Herzegovina||Adam Ondra|
|La Capella||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||February 2011||Spain||Adam Ondra
|Lapsus||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||November 2015||Italy||Stefano Ghisolfi
|Les Affranchis||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||March 2021||France||Loïc Zehani|
|Les yeux plus gros que l’antre||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||May 2018||France||Sébastien Bouin|
|Lider Iberico||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||April 2021||Spain||Alex Garriga|
|Marina Superstar||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||October 2009||Italy||Adam Ondra|
|Meiose||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||November 2015||Switzerland||Pirmin Bertle
|Nu World||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||October 2020||USA||Jonathan Siegrist|
|Peruvian Necktie||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||October 2013||USA||James Litz
|Picacho Increible Total||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||May 2021||Spain||Jonatan Flor|
|Supernova||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||October 2015||Germany||Alex Megos|
|Torture Physique Integrale||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||July 2013||Switzerland||Adam Ondra|
|Vicious Circle||5.15a/5.15b (9a+/9b)||March 2015||Slovenia||Adam Ondra|
How Many Hard Routes Are There?
As of June 2023, there are 89 routes graded 9a+/9b or harder, which is pretty crazy considering we got our first taste for 9b+ (Change, Adam Ondra) a little over a decade ago. Even in the last year, plenty of new lines have made it onto our list of the hardest sport climbs. Perhaps one of the most noticeable milestones to happen in the last year was Seb Bouin clipping the chains on DNA in April 2022. But if we put 9c climbing aside for a minute, there has also been a huge increase in the number of 9b+ sport routes in the last year.
Five new 9b+ lines have been established in the 22/23 season; Excalibur (Stefano Ghisolfi), Mejorando La Samfaina (Jorge Díaz Rullo), Sleeping Lion (Chris Sharma), Suprême Jumbo Love (Seb Bouin), Zvěřinec (Adam Ondra). This is a whopping 100% increase from the number of 9b+ routes that were established in 2021.
|Grades||Number of Routes|
Who Has The Most Hard Ascents?
Must this question even be asked? Even without seeing the data, I bet you can guess which climber has bagged the most ascents of 9a+/9b or harder.
Yes, unsurprisingly, Adam Ondra has claimed the most ascents routes graded higher than 9a+/9b. That probably doesn’t come as a shock but what is interesting, however, is that of 89 routes on our list, Ondra has clipped the chains on 41% of the established routes 9a+/9b or harder. To put that into perspective, Seb Bouin, the second biggest crusher on this list, has only claimed 15% of the lines on this list.
|Climber||No. or ascents 9b/9b+ or harder|
|Jorge Díaz Rullo||8|
|Pierre Le Cerf||1|
|José Luis Palao||1|
Another interesting observation here is that of the 54 climbers on this list, only 3 are female. Angela Eiter and Laura Rogora are leading the charge for the ladies, both with two ascents of 9b to their names. Angela Either also made the FA of Madam Ching, a line she developed in her home country of Austria. This was the first female FA of 9b, which is an amazing achievement. Julia Chanourdie is currently the only other woman to claim a 9b route, with her ascent of Ondra’s Eagle-4 in November 2020.
Which Country Has The Hardest Climbs?
Europe continues to be the epicenter for hard sport climbs. In fact, 89% of all routes graded 9a+/9b or harder can be found in Europe, with Spain being home to 33% of all the routes on this list. Only 8 climbs on this list are in North America and 2 in Asia. There are currently no climbs in the Southern Hemisphere that qualify for a spot on our list.
|Grades||Number of Routes|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||1|